Current exhibitions, shows, and installations

"A Century of Retablos" at the Phoenix Art Museum: If you happen to be a man, a little touch of gray may very well get you further in this world than plastic surgery. The physical evidence of age, survival, and experience demands respect from peers. The same rule can easily apply to this collection, with works ranging from the mid-18th century to the late 19th century. These paintings of Christian imagery certainly look their age. The muted colors that were surely bright at one time have aged to a translucent state that reveals the grain of the wood underneath. Some pieces have warped so dramatically that their panels have split. But much like a man's salt and pepper mustache, the age is what makes them charming and beautiful. This large collection portrays saints, the holy family, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the big cheese himself in a simplistic, two-dimensional style — much like Byzantine but without the fancy gold leaf. Even if the Christian god isn't your thing, the show is definitely worth a visit because the paintings surely stand alone as surviving historic artworks. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $4 for children, free to all on Tuesday evenings. Through February 3. 1625 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix. Call 602-257-1222 or visit www.phxart.org.

Paintings by Xiao Shunzhi at Calvin Charles Gallery: After a few hours of viewing art, it sometimes feels as if I've rubbed my eyeballs with sandpaper. The visual wear makes everything blurry, and the only thing that brings focus back is seeing something truly excellent. Such was the case when I walked into Calvin Charles Gallery. Among the eclectic mix of fine art, the paintings by Xiao Shunzhi emerge as the works with massive star quality. In Vine Series 1: My Home, Xiao creates a painting full of action. Black paint squiggles across the surface of the bright white rice paper. He works with varying line thickness to create a masterful visual pattern that pulls the eye into and out of the resulting illusions of depth. The tangles of line emote frenzied action balanced by large areas of negative space. The paintings on display include abstract works as well as traditional Chinese landscapes depicting scenes of everyday rural life. Admission is free and art will rotate as sold. 4201 North Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Call 480-421-1818 or visit www.calvincharles.com.

Paintings by Scooter LaForge at Antoine Proulx Design Studio: As far as turnoffs go, self-absorbed pretension is right up there with stained teeth and halitosis. And sadly, our art scene is rampant with artists who take themselves too seriously. But Scooter LaForge is the equivalent to tooth bleach and a bottle of mouthwash, as evidenced by his zany and hilarious paintings. His humorously morbid approach to subject matter, from popular Hollywood icons to everyday urban scenes, reflects the ease with which he approaches art. His intentionally immature and splotchy painting style works because the silly visual quality is part of the joke. But this isn't a simple gag; the subject matter — which is often depressing in its own right — is expertly turned into fodder for a hearty, inappropriate laugh. Admission is free and art will be rotated as sold at 3320 N. 44th St. in Phoenix. Call 602-952-1580 or visit www.antoineproulx.com.

"On the Ball" at Sky Harbor Airport Terminal 4, Level 3 Gallery: With millions of travelers passing through Sky Harbor every year, the art displays surely need to approach crowd-pleasing topics. And what's more crowd-pleasing than American sports? After all, they cause spectators to passionately scream their brains out on a regular basis. Most of this show is what one would expect — paintings and sculpture of people doing sporty things. There are two artists that really outshine the rest. Keith Stanton has a pretty rad photography trick in which he sets up a scene in miniature and shoots with a macro lens to create the illusion of true-to-life scale. The photos are convincing at first glance, but because of their bright colors and miniature-model quality, they have a surrealistic edge. The other artist worth your time is Denise Currier, who basically paints with fabric. It's safe to assume that this woman has made some kickass quilts in her time, as evidenced by the stellar construction of pieced fabrics combined with gorgeous decorative stitching. She creates beautiful plush scenes of golf course landscapes. Jeff Falk's small gold statue of a child with a baseball mitt and cap was just too over the top. It's an obvious attempt to update the cherub statues seen in cathedrals but the only thing Falk's piece looks like is a creepy doll, spray-painted by a sadistic kid. Admission is free. The show runs through March 30 at 3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Call 602-273-2105 or visit phoenix.gov/skyharborairport.

Paintings by Moises at Barrio Café: With Barrio Café's modern Mexican cuisine and Spanish music, artist Moises is the perfect fit. Moises paints bright and lively subject matter inspired by, well, the barrio. The works are punchy and loud — accomplished by applying fluorescent colors using short, quick, and thin brush strokes. Que Onda Perito is a portrait of a surly and road-hard Chihuahua. This head shot, complete with cigarette hanging from the mouth and a black bandanna headband shows a pooch with some major street cred. Another fabulous work is Mean Green Urban Love Machine, a large piece of wood cut into the shape of a classic car with fins. The orange flames sing against the lime-green paint job. A tattooed and bandanna-clad hombre drives his beautiful long-haired woman. Without a background, its tough to tell what setting they are in, so Moises cleverly renders a gorgeous cityscape in the bumper's reflection. Admission is free. Through November 30 at 2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix. Open lunch and dinner hours. 602-636-0240. www.barriocafe.com.

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi